tv PBS News Hour PBS September 7, 2012 12:00am-1:00am PDT
captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> woodruff: good evening from the time warner cable arena in charlotte on the final day of the 2012 democratic national convention. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. on the "newshour" tonight, the spotlight is on president obama. it's his turn to make the case for a second term, after former president clinton set the stage for him last night. >> woodruff: we assess the president's record and his leadership style as commander in chief. >> ifill: we'll be joined by our floor reporter ray suarez and historians michael beschloss and
richard norton smith. >> woodruff: and with us in the skybox again tonight for insight and analysis are mark shields and david brooks. >> ifill: that's all ahead on tonight's "newshour." major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: ♪ ♪ moving our economy for 160 years. bnsf, the engine that connects us. >> they can be enlightening or engaging. conversations help us learn and grow. at wells fargo, we believe you can never underestimate the power of a conversation. it's this exchange of ideas that helps you move ahead with confidence.
because an open dialogue is what open doors. wells fargo. together we'll go far. and by the alfred p. sloan foundation. supporting science, technology, and improved economic performance and financial literacy in the 21st century. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> woodruff: as the democratic
>> woodruff: let's go right to the floor where john lewis is speaking. >> do you want to go back or do you want to keep america moving forward? my dear friends, your vote is precious, almost sacred. it is the most power it feel non-violent tool we have to create a more perfect union. (cheers and applause) not too long ago, people snood a long line. they had to pass these so-called literacy tests, on one occasion a person was asked the number of bubbles in a bar of zone. all to keep them from casting their ballots. today it is unbelievable that there are republican officials that are trying to stop some people from voting!
they're changing the rules. imposing requirements to suppress the vote. the republican leader in the pennsylvania house even bragged that his state's new voter i.d. law is going to allow governor romney to win the state. that's not right; that's not fair; and this is not just. (applause) and similar efforts have been made the texas, ohio, florida, wisconsin, arizona, georgia, and south carolina. i've seen this before. i lived this before. too many people struggled, suffered, and died to make this possible for every american to
exercise their right to vote! (cheers and applause) and we have come too far together to ever turn back. so democrats, we must not be silent. we must stand up, speak up, and speak out! (cheers and applause) we must march to the polls like never, ever before. we must come together and exercise our rights and together on november 6 we will reelect
the man who will lead america forward president obama! (cheers and applause) >> ifill: john lewis is in many way it is heart and soul of the democratic party. actually marched was injured and has now served congress, served atlanta in congress for many years. he's really started this evening off. the floor has already packed and people are in the house before it gets locked down to hear the president. >> woodruff: and we're only about an hour or so in. the main event is the appearance by the president himself. the audience here may be smaller than originally planed but the campaign hopes his message will energize voters across the country. it was all about more security and fewer seats as democrats in charlotte made ready for president obama's big address tonight. a possible thunderstorm forecast led to the shift from the 73,000 capacity bank of america
stadium-- back to the 20,000 seat time-warner arena. the vice chair of the democratic national committee dismissed republican suggestions the democrats couldn't fill stadium seats. >> it's a safety issue. >> woodruff: this afternoon, president obama spoke by conference call with some of the thousands of volunteers who will be shut out because of the change. the president himself made his first appearance at the arena at the tail end of last night, as former president clinton finished his rousing endorsement. >> it is our hope that instructs us to march on! >> woodruff: earlier in the night, others built the case for president obama's re-election.
>> and right now, this means marching through our communities to make sure everyone is registered and ready to vote. >> he believes in a country where everyone is held accountable. where no one can steal your purse on main street or your pension on wall street. >> woodruff: but it was former president clinton who was the true star of the night-- passionately peppering an often improvised speech with his signature one-liners. >> i want to nominate a man who's cool on the outside... ( applause ) ...but who burns for america on the inside. >> woodruff: and with the business of officially nominating aside, he began a take-down of republican arguments one-by-one, starting with jobs. >> we democrats, we think the country works better with a strong middle class, with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it, with a relentless focus on the future, with business and government
actually working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. you see, we believe that "we're all in this together" is a far better philosophy than "you're on your own." ( applause ) so who's right? well, since 1961, for 52 years now, the republicans have held the white house 28 years, the democrats 24. in those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private-sector jobs. so what's the job score?
republicans: 24 million. democrats: 42 million. >> woodruff: he hit on welfare, health care, medicaid and medicare calling out republicans for misrepresenting the facts. >> now, when congressman ryan looked into that tv camera and attacked president obama's medicare savings as, quote, "the biggest, coldest power play." i didn't know whether to laugh or cry. ( laughter ) because that $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of medicare savings that he has in his own budget! ( applause ) you got to give one thing: it takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.
( laughter ) >> woodruff: he poked fun at how the republicans characterized the democrats at their convention a week ago. >> in tampa, the republican argument against the president's re-election was actually pretty simple, pretty snappy. it went something like this: "we left him a total mess. he hasn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in." ( laughter ) >> woodruff: and he answered the republicans' question "are you better off?" >> now, are we where we want to be today? no. is the president satisfied? of course not. but are we better off than we were when he took office? listen to this. listen to this. everybody... ( applause ) everybody... when president barack obama took office, the
economy was in freefall. it had just shrunk 9 full percent of g.d.p. we were losing 750,000 jobs a month. are we doing better than that today? >> yes! >> the answer is yes. >> woodruff: after 45 minutes, president clinton boiled down the choice: >> my fellow americans, all of us in this grand hall and everybody watching at home, when we vote in this election, we'll be deciding what kind of country we want to live in. if you want a winner-take-all, you're-on-your-own society, you should support the republican ticket. but if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility, a we're-all-in- this-together society, you should vote for barack obama and joe biden. >> woodruff: delegates on the
floor were enthralled during the speech, and energized after it. >> it was like going to a baseball game and hitting a home run. he hit all of the issues. >> president clinton pointed out all the discrepancies i think the republican party have been trying to blame on president barack obama, but obviously it was very clear by president clinton's speech that that's simply not true. and as he pointed out, no one could've fixed these problems overnight. they didn't happen overnight so they can't be fixed overnight. >> woodruff: vendors were doing a brisk business as thousands of people streamed toward the arena in a carnival-like atmosphere ahead of tonight's main event-- president obama's speech. >> ifill: mary j. blige prepares to sing. she's going do this every night tonight? >> suarez: some of the disappointed people who won't be at the stadium were outside on the convention center hoping they could convince someone to
give up a ticket. i couldn't hang around long enough to see in that was successful. i doubt it was. there has been rain intermitt taptly throughout the day. i heard two political pros talking to one another saying they would feel reassureed if it was raining that it would have been stadium size to show that they canceled the show for a reason. people have been wandering around in panchos and making sure they got here earlier than usual. as was mentioned earlier, there will be a security lockdown, but seats are also at a premium. this place, the delegates were serenaded as an award for their early arrival by james taylor. now you can hear mary j. blige. latin music superstar mark anthony sang the national anthem. it's all part of a boiled-down program that was once planned for a great big stadium field and is now being boiled down to an arena floor. but you can't tell here that anything's wrong or that anyone's disappointed. >> woodruff: thank you, ray, with us tonight once again are
shields and brooks. that is syndicated columnist in mark shields and "new york times" columnist in david brooks. gentlemen, you only have to compete with mary j. blige. (laughter) >> i didn't even know she had a song about paul ryan. (laughter) >>. >> ifill: i'll translate for you david. >> woodruff: here we are 20 something hours after bill clinton, mark shields. are you still thinking about what he had to say or are you projecting ahead to what president obama said? >> well, president obama has to build up on what bill clinton had to say and what bill clinton had to say. bill clinton hit a home run, michelle obama hit a home run. now it's barack obama to carry it forward. he can't get by with a ground ruled double tonight. he these hit a home run. i mean, they've set a bar that is that high. i mean, there have been two exceptional nights, michelle obama and bill clinton. and while david and i were quite admiring of governor christie in
tampa, there was nobody at the republican event that established anything to the same standard, i think, that barack obama needs to do. >> ifill: the republican campaign officials told me that the first night with michelle obama was supposed to be about heart and values and the second night was the prosecution and what's tonight supposed to be about with the president? >> i hope it's about the future. it better be. as you say, we know about what's in him, we saw the argument against the republicans, i went back and read the speech this morning and when i was looking for what the future was going to be, there was nothing. there was one sentence. so that better be what this is about. a candidate for office is supposed to offer a vision. a vision and a set of proposals so he's got to talk a little bit about that but he's got to give us a road map. >> woodruff: they say it won't be like a state of the union address. they say he won't give a laundry list of what has to happen so how does he thread that need?
people want the specifics, they want to know where he's going to take the country but he can't just reel off a bunch of legislation. >> i agree. and it's more than legislation. it is... american presidential elections about who tap which you ares optimism and who captures the future and he has to give us not only what he wants to achieve but how the country is going to be better and how it's going to, by his policies, make it better and that's... to me that's his chore tonight and it's a tough one. >> ifill: while the members of the delegates rock out to mary j. blige, we'll be back with much more convention coverage in a few minutes after the other news of the day. here's kwame holeman in our washington newsroom. >> holman: republican presidential nominee mitt romney will not be watching the obama speech tonight. he made that clear today during a brief appearance in concord, new hampshire, where he met with veterans. romney said he'd watch the speech only if the president admits his failures. >> if i heard or if in the excerpts that are put out i hear the president's going to report on the promises he made and how he has performed on those
promises, i'd love to watch it. but if it's another series of new promises that he's not going to keep i have no interest in seeing him because i saw the promises last time. those are promises he did not keep and the american people deserve to know why he did not keep his promises. >> holman: romney's vice presidential running mate, paul ryan, stepped up his criticism, at a rally in colorado. he called mr. obama "the most partisan president i've ever seen." u.s. and european markets rallied sharply today on word of new efforts to deal with the european debt problem. on wall street, the dow jones industrial average gained 244 points to close at 13,292-- its best finish since 2007. the nasdaq rose 66 points to close at 3,135. that's the highest it has been in 12 years. the news that drove the stock surge came from the european central bank. its president mario draghi announced a broad new plan to buy the bonds of the euro zone's most troubled countries. the bond purchases are intended
to push down interest rates, so hard-pressed governments can borrow at lower cost. in turn, that could stave off defaults in spain and italy which could wreck the euro currency system. >> we will do whatever it takes within our mandate, within our mandate to have a single monetary policy in the euro area and to maintain price stability in the euro area and to preserve the euro, and we say that the euro is irreversible. >> holman: the european bank's announcement came hours after a report said the euro-zone faces a new recession. the organization for economic cooperation and development which watches trends in leading economies said heavy debt is slowing growth across europe. meanwhile, in greece, thousands of police and firefighters rallied against planned pay cuts. the protest came as greek unemployment was reported above 24% in june. there were new claims today that the bush administration made
more extensive use of waterboarding than was ever acknowledged. the c.i.a. has confirmed waterboarding three suspects. but human rights watch reported on other instances, involving libyan exiles who were swept up in the hunt for terrorists, after 9/11. the exiles were opponents of libyan leader moammar gadhafi. a fishing boat packed with migrants sank today, just off the western coast of turkey. at least 61 people died. most were palestinians and syrians and more than half were children. local officials said smugglers had promised them passage into europe. rescue crews searched in vain for survivors, beyond the few dozen who swam to shore. an initial investigation determined the vessel was over- loaded. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to gwen and judy in charlotte. >> woodruff: in his acceptance speech tonight, the president >> ifill: mary j. blige is rocking the crowd out.
woe ear going to listen to her for a few minutes. ♪ you've got to sing for me, just sing it to me ♪ come on, y'all, sing it, sing it, sing it ♪ thank you! (cheers and applause) >> ifill: mary j. blige, they have a lot of entertainers tonight who are being... performing into the arena. it was supposed to be part of a big football stadium. >> woodruff: some of them didn't make the cut. >> ifill: no earth wind and fire. >> they are going to bring on the f.a.o. fighters. >> ifill: i know you can't wait for that. >> woodruff: in his acceptance speech tonight, the president will urge voters to stick by him for four more years, citing his record and his ability to lead. to get a sense of how people who have worked closely with him see his leadership, i talked to several of them over the past
few weeks. >> i barack hussein obama do solemnly swear. >> reporter: when president obama was sworn into office three and a half years ago the nation was in the grip of an economic crisis at home. while fighting two hot wars overseas. >> we were essentially a triage unit when we arrived. before we got there, the economy shrunk by 8.9%, worst quarter since 1930. we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. the banking and financial system was locked up. the >> the manufacturing base of the country-- auto industry, et cetera-- is two weeks away from collapse. and america has now been nine years at war. now i said to him, i said, you know, do we have a priority? he goes, yeah, all of them. >> reporter: presidential advisors david axelrod and rahm emanuel said president obama's leadership style during those first chaotic months were vintage obama. he would gather people together,
consider all options and then take decisive action. >> what he doesn't encourage is needless conversation. he know it is information that he needs to make decisions when he calls groups together to talk through those questions that he has. he listens to advice, makes people debate in front of him, he's not scared of contrary advice >> he asks advice, there's one last gut check and then he moves. >> woodruff: david axelrod, senior advisor to the reelection campaign in chicago was a white house political director in the early years. he says the president isn't afraid to take action that is unpopular and points to the bailout of the auto industry as a prime example. >> you know, it was clear that the politics weren't on the side of intervention but he knew what the impact of losing a million jobs in the midst of this already difficult economic crisis would be and ae he acted. you can't be a leader and sit
there and wring your hands looking at polling and worrying about the political consequences of your decisions when there are big things at stake. >> woodruff: of course, not every action taken by the president has worked according to plan. raefb rahm emanuel, who served as mr. obama's first chief of staff and is now the mayor of chicago, concedes that. he ticks off a list of economic measures spearheaded by mr. obama. >> was there something wrong with the tarp? absolutely. was there something wrong with the jobs? without a doubt. was there something wrong with how we did the stress test? sure. but collectively, the collective action got us off of where we were and we're in a different position today than we were not only three years ago now but compared to where we are today which is where where europe is. >> woodruff: is that because the president had the right instincts? >> well, there is instincts, there's tough calls. >> mr. speaker, the president of the united states. >> woodruff: one of the
criticisms of mr. obama's leadership is that he's had so much difficulty winning support from congress. many republicans say that's because he was too beholden to his democratic base. tom davis is a former g.o.p. congressman from virginia. >> when he got elected i think he had every intention of trying to bring everybody together behind him, let's work together, but he had a democratic congress. the minute you go over and sit down with the republicans you'll have pelosi and the democrats fighting saying "we won the election." so the pressure is for him to produce a work product and the republicans weren't going to follow over and say "oh, yeah, let's work together." it's tough situation. when your party controls both houses, those interest groups control the agenda. they don't want to give it away to the other side. >> reporter: but the number two democrat, dick durbin, said the president often took on leaders of his own party. he recounted a late night white house meeting on health care reform in january, 2010. democrats were arguing with the
president to remove some oversight provisions. >> at midnight the president stood up and said "that's it, you won't agree, i'm leaving, you can leave when you like." he walked out of the room. it stunned the people who were there. >> he wanted them to finally understand that there's a couple things that if that bill doesn't include it it does not include his signature. don't go here again. that was tend of the subject. >> woodruff: not surprisingly, some of the toughest criticism of mr. obama's leadership style comes from republican congressional leaders. in the summer of 2011 house speaker john boehner was quietly negotiating with the president trying to reach a budget deal which would include enough entitlement cuts to bring republican support and enough tax reform to gain acceptance by democrats. there were several failed attempts and then there appeared to be a breakthrough. i talked to boehner at the republican convention last week >> at the end where we have an
agreement, eric cantor and i and the president in the oval office on a sunday late july, we have an agreement then it just evaporated. the president lost his courage, i don't know why it fell apart but it was clear he was afraid to take on his own party. listen, i fund risks we were both taking because i was as far out on a limb as i could possibly go. but the president's courage isn't as strong as it should be to lead. at some point you have to look at your staff and say "no, i'm not going there." >> woodruff: senator durbin and the fellow democrats on the hill dismiss boehner's account. they stay president bent over backwards to come to agreement with republicans. >> i really believe he made a good faith effort to try to bring them in. look at all of the back room conversations with john boehner trying to work out something on the deficit, time and again the speaker would walk away.
the president made a commitment and a good faith effort and they weren't there. >> woodruff: was it naive on his part to wait so long to give them so much room and so much base? >> i guess in hindsight you can say you should have known earlier earlier they couldn't be trusted for this tough decision, whether it was health care or dealing with the deficit. >> woodruff: stylistically mr. obama has been criticized for not making more of an attempt to cultivate personal relationships with lawmakers from from both sides of the aisle as president clinton did with things like regular bipartisan rounds of golf. durbin dismisses the comparison. >> the bill clinton presidency was a constant schmooze. it's just his personality. it's who he is. and when you compare anyone to the bill clinton model of a democratic president they're going to come off as different. the president is friendly, he's open, he's brought in members of congress into more open meetings than i've ever seen before to talk about the issue but he has
a different personality than bill clinton. >> reporter: even republican davis concedes that previous presidents-- who were known for their legislative achievements-- would have a tough time in the highly partisan talk show personality driven climate of today. would a lyndon johnson model work today? >> we have obstacles today that l.b.j. or nixon who had a lot of legislative accomplishments or even a reagan. today ronald reagan goes up and cuts a deal with tip o'neill, if sean than hahnty didn't like it, by the time they get back to the white house or rachel maddow doesn't like it, the deal is undone. that's the difference today. >> woodruff: david axelrod acknowledges the polarized capital has forced mr. obama to change the way he governs. >> we learned from some of the obstacles that we faced during the debt ceiling debacle that we needed to take these issues to the outside and really enlist the american people and make sure that they thoroughly were
engaged in the discussion. that's why we were able to pass the payroll tax cut the republicans first resisted because the american people got involved. >> woodruff: davis, however, is not optimistic that any real change in the political climate is possible even if the president enlists more public support. >> the republican base is rabid against obama. he may win reelection but the republican base is just rabid. it's unlikely to change and not tolerate those kind of compromises. the republican leaders have to factor that in when they sit down at the table with the president. so... i mean, the president has to understand that when he sits down with them the limitations that they have and maybe the concessions he has to make either verbally or transactionly to make that happen. >> woodruff: it's an outlook that makes future governing by either party problematic. >> ifill: now for more on president obama the man, we turn to david meredith, author of the book "barack obama, the story"
and an associate editor at the "washington post." david, thanks for joining us. >> thank you, gwen. >> ifill: you won a pulitzer for writing about bill clinton and you've just written this book about barack obama. when you watch that scene on the stage last night, what kind of intersection of two ambitious men did that present to you? >> the events conspired to bring them together. and bill clinton who loves to be needed was very much needed by barack obama at that moment and there was no doubt that he would come through. he did, he did exactly what the obama team wanted him to do. he's a great explainer. >> woodruff: one of the things bill clinton said last night was this man has the passion for america. >> you know why he said that? >> why? >> he took it from me. it was in one of my columns. (laughter) no, it's not about me, i'm sorry. but it's true. >> woodruff: we'll have to to ask him about that. the book you've written about
barack obama, we talked to you about it, it stops with his law school experience and you're working on the next chapter of his life. but based on what you know about this man how different are their governing styles and why do you think president obama has had such a more difficult time than president clinton did? >> you know, i think policies are actually pretty close although clinton was able to frame things a little differently than president obama has done obviously culture has changed enormously with the polarization and some of it these do with the fact that president obama doesn't have a transactional politician's mentality. he's more cert of looking back and looking at the surrealism of everything that's going on but at the same time he's participating whereas president clinton just plows right in. but there's so much talk about how clinton was so successful and president obama was not, well, it was president obama who passed the health care law. >> ifill: and bill clinton
couldn't. but we can't resist comparing these two. it's really interesting. on one hand we first came to know bill clinton from his convention speeches. he's given nine consecutive convention speeches. so here we are on the night of another big one. >> i'd like to change the metaphor. as much as i love mark shields as a metaphor guy. you don't want barack obama playing baseball. he doesn't play baseball very well. basketball. he's got to make the shot and in 2004 when he gave the speech that made him famous, beforehand hours before he said "i'm not nervous. i'm going to make the shot." he's very competitive. obviously he's got a lot to live up to tonight with michelle and bill clinton giving those speeches but more than competing with them he's competing with what he wants his second term to be in history. he's very cool under pressure so we'll see. >> woodruff: having spent as much time as you spent studying him, what kind of a learner is
he? you have a sense of what he's learned from his experience. >> well, there was a lot to learn, when you think about it, eight years before he became president he'd gone to a convention in l.a. and knew nobody, his credit card bounced, he had no experience and he went home. so he didn't have that much experience. i think that his personality is that he is a learner. some politicians never change they just become more so. i think everything in his life has led them to constantly try to learn more. so i would expect his second term, even the way he performs to be different than in the first term. >> woodruff: but first he has to get through the next 60 days of the campaign. what is it that you see when you look at him and mitt romney from what you're writing about mitt romney, how do you see them going head to head? >> well, they both have... neither one of them are bill clinton in terms of their ability to connect with people.
in the same way. i think it's very interesting because they have the tendency to be technocratic in some ways, the ways they approach the problems and i think it's going to be ugly which doesn't have that much to do with either of them but the massive amounts of money and the polarization in the country so in terms of the level and rhetoric i don't think anybody should look forward to this. >> woodruff: the cool on the outside, does that mean he'll stay cool, coast to this election? what's your expectation? >> no, because remember, fire on the inside. this campaign means everything to him. in terms of whether he wants to be a great president, you have to have a second term and he knows that so i don't expect him to be... he'll keep that outer cool but i don't expect them to coast through this campaign. >> ifill: david meredith author
of "barack obama the story." thank you very much. >> woodruff: biographer of presidents. thanks. >> woodruff: next, the oldest delegate at this democratic convention is 97 turning 98 later this month. elzena johnson cast her first vote for franklin delano roosevelt in 1936. she's attending her first convention and last night, she announced the roll call for her home state of mississippi. >> number of votes from mississippi was 42 for barack obama. >> woodruff:. >> ifill: ray caught up with el vina johnson. >> suarez: i'm with the oldest delegate. 97-year-old elvina johnson. you decided to come to charlotte why? >> i just wanted to be close and i enjoyed the speakers. i wanted to hear what they say
and just i could get it better here. >> suarez: why did you feel it was important to be selected as a delegate and be a part of this process? a lot of people your age are taking it's easy. >> well, i do not think about why they accepted me, i just accepted it and... because i felt like that was an honor. >> suarez: tell me what you remember about the democratic party and about elections during tougher times, the '30s, the '40s, depression, war. >> you know, we didn't have t.v. and we didn't have as much communication so you didn't hear too much difference. i grew up in a democrat home. my mother and daddy, and i didn't know anything but democrat and my daddy would always say they weren't going to
vote and he'd always come in... he was a farmer and he'd always come in, he and my brother, $4, $2 each to pay the toll tax. so they wanted to vote so much. >> suarez: a lot of people don't remember that poor people had to find a couple dollars that they could scrape together to be able to vote. >> yes. he took it out of his pocket. he made us a good living. we had a big farm, ten hands on the farm. he doesn't wasn't a... we were all right, you know, as far as finances but he always took that money, i remember that so much, and then whenever it was time to vote he would get the buggy out and put the horses to it and mama and daddy would go off to
vote. and you know we didn't understand, little children, why they were doing it and we'd cry why was mama and daddy going? you know, they stayed at home with us, they didn't go like parents do now, of course, you know, most of them had to take the children with them. >> suarez: by election day, elzena johnson will be 98 years old and probably one of the oldest people to cast your vote. thanks a lot. >> thank you. >> ifill: you can watch other interviews ray's done on the convention floor this week on our website. >> woodruff: joining us now from washington are two "newshour" regulars-- presidential historians richard norton smith and michael bechloss. i don't think either one of you covered the president of... the election of franklin delano... if you did, correct me. >> well, not alive, anyway. so we're looking ahead to this big speech tonight. gwen and i have been talking about this.
i mean, you two studied... have studied other presidents. how much of a burden does this president have to make this nomination, accepting the nomination speech rise to the occasion and get them to where he needs to be? richard? >> well, it's a big somethat that. embattled presidents beginning with harry truman have changed the equation of a race with a single speech. truman, of course, by calling the so-called do-nothing congress back into session. gerald ford pulled a rabbit out of a hat by challenging his challenger jimmy carter to televise debates. the first since 1960. and george w. bush in 2004 came out of the republican convention... i mean, there are a lot of democrats who clearly hope history is repeating itself. >> it's true, but the three presidents you mentioned all were running for reelection at the time of a great economy, barack obama has no such luck. and you think of, prince, george
h.w. bush when he ran in 1992. he gave a speech it was like many presidential election... speeches at conventions which is a lilt self-congratulatory. he said later on that was a mistake because people thought i'd run out of steam, no specific ideas for the second term. plus i was running against bill clinton which had a very specific plan for how to get out of the recession in 1992. so the best advice to barack obama is be very specific about your plan, make sure we know how you're going to continue our lives out of the economic mess there was in 2009. >> and one other futuristic element it seems to me that touches upon the president's credibility and that is he's got... in addition, it seems to me, he's got to convince a critical mass of those who are watching that things will be
different. not only that he has a plan but that he will be more successful in the next four years working with republicans whether or not they control congress. it seems to me that's a critical threshold that needs to be established. >> ifill: richard and michael i want to read you excerpts that the obama campaign has released. among other things he says there's going to be a choice between two different tasks for america. and the path we offer may be harder but it leads to a better place. then you're talking about specificity, michael, and he talks about things like one million new manufacturing jobs by 2016, cutting the growth of tuition in ten years. is that what you would normally find in a nominating acceptance speech? especially for an incumbent, michael? >> usually not. they're usually gauzey and grandiose sometimes, ronald reagan in 1984, morning in america, very unspecific. so the problem that the president's got tonight is that he's got to say, yes, i'm going
to do some things that are different from what i did in the first term without making him look as if he's saying i made mistakes and i'm going to do it differently. >> ifill: richard? >> i also think what this week has done. it's fascinating to see each party lay out not only its vision but in many ways exposed its culture. we really are polarized and it seems to me this election may very well turn on how you phrase the famous reagan we. the republicans would very much like it to be are you better off than you were four years ago and it seems to me the democrats led by bill clinton last night would like it to be are we better off than we were. depending on who wins that debate it may very well decide who wins the election. >> it has to be future oriented tonight you said a few minutes ago. is that what it has to be. >> it does because presidents... disraeli talked about a leader
being an exhausted volcano. usually a president running for reelection looks like an exhausted volcano without specific ideas. that will be the problem with reagan in 1984. a wonderful campaign, won a big landslide but for what? and when reagan went back to the white house one of his aides said "we've got to do something in the second term. here is a list, which would you like to be your supreme priority?" he had about a half dozen ideas and reagan, in classic reagan checked them all and said "let's do them all." >> woodruff: richard, you said one of the president's tasks tonight is to convince people things will be different but how does anybody make that promise in a way people know that it's true. >> well, in a sense we're asking for an act of faith, a leap of faith. this week has been about reestablishing, it seems to me, an atmosphere in which this president can ask credibility
for a leap of faith. the president himself has told people he really believes that if he is reelected by whatever margin-- and who knows what happens in the house and the senate-- that it would in his words "break the fever." now that may be unrealistic but it's a hope and speeches like tonight are all about hope. >> woodruff: richard norton smith and michael beschloss, we'll come back to you throughout the evening louchlt the messages from tampa and charlotte play up and down the ballot after the convention? hari sreenivasan takes a look. >> sreenivasan: i'm joined by nathan gonzales of the rothenberg political report, contributor to roll call and newshour political editor christina bellantoni. the last two weeks we've seen these competing narratives come out and how does this translate seeing those election races that are down ticket, the ones that are not president obama, not candidate romney?
>> well, i think this is going to be a jolt back to reality tomorrow morning. the job numbers will be released and we'll be talking about the same eight swing states in the presidential race, the same eight senate seats that will decide the majority, the same 75 house races. for those democratic candidates they need obama to do well but they don't want to be too close because he remains a polarizing figure. >> absolutely. completely right and one of the things you're seeing here is the themes they're trying to hit on. the democrats are trying to criticize the republican ticket and every ticket candidate for paul ryan's budget plan and what it does to medicare. the republicans are trying to criticize every single democrat saying they would raise taxes on everyone so the same arguments are going to be playing out. what is interesting is how much americans are paying attention to this convention. because is this that messaging really translating in minnesota, ohio, and florida. >> what is the impact of that communication last night whether it's a big speech by president
clinton, a big speech by president obama or a big speech by mitt romney? how much of that filters through and makes an impact on people are still in that undecided bubble or will they wait until the week before the election? >> i think it's about democrats and republicans continuing the message that they had over the last two weeks. just relying on the convention alone is going to be talking about on the stump, getting on television with campaign ads because the group in the middle is just starting to tune into the election and the ones that will decide it won't make up their minds for a few weeks. >> and it's not just about the undecided voters but exciting the base. that's something you've seen here in charlotte just getting off of the tram to come into the arena you heard people starting to chant the fired up ready to go chant. that's what democrats want to make sure everybody's energized for the president and that will translate down ticket to races across the country from they get their people to the polls. >> sreenivasan: the people in the stadiums and arenas are the choir, if you will. so it's not a very tough case to
get these folks fired up but how do you translate that into those small rural counties with maybe only one two delegates? >> a big part of it is talking to the middle-class because the president will talk about that tonight in his big speech and say the democrats are the party caring about the middle-class so they are trying to say that we are out there for the farmers. they have everything orchestrated from the stage to point to little thing he is own a's done along the way whether that's infrastructure investment or aid to farm workers or drought packages and to take that and then say we're thinking of you, the republicans aren't. the republicans just say, hey, we're going to... democrats want to raise your taxes. they're not thinking about you. >> democrats still have two paths. they either have to convince the american people in the president is leading in the right direction with still 60% of voters believe the country is headed off on the wrong track. if they can't close that deal they have to convince the american people that mitt romney
is simply unacceptable and an unacceptable alternative. if they can continue to harp on bane, that you can't trust him, why isn't he releasing his tax returns and discredit him as a job creator that's how they can win the election. >> sreenivasan: nathan gonzales, christina bellantoni, thanks so much. >> thank you. >> ifill: now to a few final words from mark shields and david brooks. david, since you joined us at the top of the show we have excerpts from president obama's speech later tonight. i remember you telling us in tampa we should never believe in the excerpts they put out in advance. >> these are a little better. it's "good evening, ladies and gentlemen." that's your excerpt. here we've got goals he's going to lay out, creating a million new manufacturing jobs, doubling exports by 2014. these goals suggest he'll lay out policies which would be a good thing. some of the goals strike me as extremely modest, reducing the deficit by $4 trillion over a decade. that's like a hundred million a year, it's not that much.
so it suggest he is's going to lay out a vision of influencing the economy in distinct places which suggests he will lay out a vision. >> are these the kinds of things mark, that you're looking for? >> yeah, i think most of saul it's the results of reassurance. as michael said the second term is going to be better than the first and a million new jobs in manufacturing. we've seen manufacturing jobs increase in the country for the first time really since the late 1990s and i think what you have here is a modest goal, quite frankly. bill clinton, 21 million new jobs in eight years. that was a rather remarkable achievement. >> woodruff: even then as we were talking about richard norton smith about, whatever promise he makes it is, as richard said, a leap of faith, about whether he can accomplish it. >> by 2014 i guarantee we'll do that.
a lot of these are carefully calibrated to be met even if he lies down on the couch for a couple years. so he's being realistic, you could say. but we'll see what policies he suggests to get us there. >> bill clinton spoke about arithmetic and i think david had it wrong on the arithmetic. cutting it $4 trillion is more than $100 billion a year. it's a trillion dollars a year. >> it's over a decade. >> over a decade. ago, so it would be $400 million. >> ifill: but if you, mark, are bill clinton talking about the future tonight how do you do do that? how do you do that in a way that takes you out of here with any kind of a boost? >> well, it's got to be a sense that it is realistic. that people say i understand now where he wants to take us. i understand how we want to get there and how he will lead us there and what's expected of all of us. i think the most important thing that they've done at their best
is really are we better off and how we are going to be better off for the next four years. are the least among us going to be more secure? are the powerful going to be more... those are the kinds of questions that he has to propose and answer. >> woodruff: i want to come back quickly to this leap of faith idea. looking out at the camera there are millions, presumably, we don't know how many, watching and getting them to believe that he can make things different >> people are aspirational and they'd like to envision a country they will be living in in two years so you can't just lay out a couple policies, i don't think he'll do that. he these lay out a specific vision of which type of people he wants us to be. with the republicans it's very clear. they want us to be a self-reliant entrepreneurial competitive people. what sort of people does barack obama want us to be?
how can we imagine that person? what sort of life will they be living. you have to embed stories. >> ifill: does there have to be a pivot tonight? we have seen and you both have commented on it this that this feels like a base convention. playing to the constituencys that are already democratic not to the middle or the independents but the swing voters. so at some point when does he... >> i think david made the key point that from 7:00 to 10:00 it's nothing but base every night and men from 10:00 on they've tried to talk to a large group but still have gone back to caressing the rojs now zones of the body politic! >> ifill: i don't know if we can have that kind of language! >> they have the constituency and this base cannot be constituency coddling. >> he's out of control. (laughter) >> woodruff: we're going to go back to ray for a preview of tonight's lineup. ray. >> suarez: we've been told not to expect a speech as policy heavy as president clinton's from president obama. tonight after joe biden is
officially renominated as candidate for vice president of the united states he'll be introduced by his wife dr. jill biden and we've been told to expect a speech that is a testimonial to president obama again, not policy heavy. and interestingly, the benediction after president obama's speech will be given by the cardinal archbishop of new york, his eminence timothy dolan who has locked horns with the obama administration in the past several months over birth control policy and insurance. >> woodruff: and also who also gave the benediction at the republican convention in tampa. so our photographers here in charlotte have been capturing dramatic moments in the hall and quiet candid moments off stage. you can browse our gallery of images and slide shows online. >> ifill: our dueling political cartoonists are back. we asked them to square off online and show us their interpretation of how the back-to-back conventions differ. a reminder, watch all the speeches and entertainment on
our live stream. all that and much more at newshour dot pbs.org. >> woodruff: again, the major developments of the day: the democratic national convention geared up for its climactic night and president obama's acceptance speech. he told supporters that he looks forward to laying out what's at stake in the election. and stocks soared after the european central bank announced new plans to help heavily indebted states. the dow industrial average gained 240 points to reach its highest close since 2007. and that's the "newshour" for tonight. i'm judy woodruff. >> ifill: and i'm gwen ifill. we'll be back at 8:00 p.m. eastern time on most pbs stations with our special coverage of tonight's session of the 2012 democratic national convention. thank you, and good night. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: >> they can be enlighteteng or engaging. conversations help us learn and grow. at wells fargo, we believe you can never underestimate the
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